Sometimes You Need to Lose in the Short Term to Win in the Long Run

I realize that’s something that you’ll never hear from our punditocracy, in large part because they’re obsessed with horse race style reporting. If what interests you is ‘keeping score’, then a short term loss is always viewed as a bad thing. Over at Sic Semper Tyrannis, Robert Lifton argues for a short term ‘loss’:

President Obama can win the election in 2012 by losing the fight to Republicans for his jobs bill and related tax measures. If the Republicans were to defeat the American Jobs Act presented by the President as a plan to save existing jobs and create new ones, then the upcoming presidential election will likely see the President identify the Republican candidate, whoever it may be, with the Republican party and run against the Republican House and Senate members led by House Speaker, John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Looking at the recent polling data from the N.Y. Times/CBSNews poll, this can be a very effective political campaign, even though at first blush the President’s support looks like it is weakening….

The thrust of the campaign is clear to see. The President has already started the campaign by visiting various sections of the country and emphasizing the benefits of his jobs plan. In his speech before the House presenting the plan he set the stage for blaming the Republicans for political motivation in not acting on the plan, noting that there was nothing in it that had not been approved by them before and that the Republican’s aim to wait fourteen months until the election was contrary to the dire needs of the unemployed who cannot afford to wait fourteen months.

I’ve made a similar case:

Imagine if one year ago, Obama had proposed strict drilling regulations*. He’s probably right: the legislative effort would have gone nowhere.

At that time.

But, in this scenario, he would have had the perfect opportunity–or crisis–to push this legislation. Not only that, he and other Democrats, rather than arguing “Republicans would have opposed this”, could be concretely claiming “Republicans did oppose this.” He could have said, “If they had listened to Democrats, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Instead, polling now suggests Obama owns this shit.

This is something that the too-smart-for-their-own-good Democratic political operatives and their progressive apologists always fail to understand: you have to create your own opportunities for good politics. If you think a policy is a good one, that many people will like the outcome, then fight for it. If the policy is truly needed and you lose, don’t worry, circumstances will eventually come around to support your position. And now you’ve laid the groundwork and established a good narrative (TEH EVUL OBSTRUKSHUNITZ!!), both of which are needed to successfully pass the legislation.

The ‘New’ Democrats are one of the most reactive political organizations I’ve ever witnessed. While I think this shift is entirely about getting re-elected, as opposed to a genuine concern about unemployment, it is uncharacteristically smart politics. For once.

I only hope it’s not too late.

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1 Response to Sometimes You Need to Lose in the Short Term to Win in the Long Run

  1. Yeah, I agree they don’t care. I also agree they’ve finally started to get “on message” and at least it has the advantage of being the correct narrative (rather than repeating the Republican one).

    On the other hand as to – “I only hope it’s not too late”, well I’m not sure it matters. In fact if it lets them get re-elected it could be worse.

    Why? Because as noted they don’t care. So why should I also care if a Democrat or Republican is elected? Sure from a purely horse race standpoint we might “win”, but if when re-elected they enact the same crappy policies, what have we won?

    Moreover, when Bush was in, as I am sure it would be true if it were Perry, if the president had assassinated an American citizen (albeit probably a bad human being – but still covered by “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”), then the Democrats might care. However since the president is the “their guy”, they don’t. Nor about military tribunals, “habeas corpus”, extraordinary rendition, etc. etc.

    So, they may win, but do we really win?

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